DEAR ABBY: From the time I was 2 until I was 13, I was abused by five different family members -- including my own father. At the age of 13, my parents terminated their parental rights, giving the state permanent custody of me. I lived in foster care until I turned 18.
When the caseworkers first evaluated me, it was expected that I would succumb to the statistics -- become a welfare mother, a drop-out, etc. I fooled them all and graduated from high school. Later on, I tried to reconnect with my real family, only to discover the chaotic environment my caseworkers had recognized. The saying "Age makes you wiser" is true.
I wish I could say that life has been a piece of cake, but the truth is, it has been difficult. Abuse has long-term side effects that can take a lifetime to overcome, especially the rejection by a parent who sided with the abuser. Had it not been for my faith in God and the encouragement of good people in my life, I would not be living the normal life I've always dreamed of.
Among the things I always wanted was a loving, caring family. It turns out that my friends are just that. I also wanted a loving husband. As I acknowledged -- and later overcame -- the deep emotional scars left by the abuse, and with the help of caring friends, I experienced a drastic turnaround. I met and married the man of my dreams, and my in-laws are some of the nicest people I've ever known. It's like I'm growing up all over again.
I have lived a whole lifetime in this short period. I realize now that my past doesn't have to determine my future. -- ALBUQUERQUE SURVIVOR
DEAR SURVIVOR: I congratulate you for overcoming the odds and creating the life you dreamed of. Instead of letting the past define you, you learned a valuable lesson: You cannot re-create the past. Concentrate on making the present the best it can be, and the future will take care of itself.